Long-time Notre Dame commits pleased with Irish resurgence

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Ovie Oghoufo and Bo Bauer were committed to play football at Notre Dame well before the program’s resurgence this season.

The two senior linebackers have been committed to the Irish so long, they pledged to a future in South Bend before last year's disastrous 4-8 season.

Just weeks before the precipitous downfall of 2016, both Oghoufo (July 22) and Bauer (Aug. 3) committed to the Irish. In the fifteen months since then, neither has wavered from their decisions.

Such dedication has made the last 10 weeks even sweeter.

“It's been great,” Oghoufo said. “As we all know, last year wasn't really the best year for them. It's great to see how they improved, the changes (head) coach (Brian) Kelly made, the improvements the team made overall from strength and conditioning all the way to actual football.”

Oghoufo, a 6-foot-3, 209-pound product of Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison heard plenty of jokes about Notre Dame. He’s doing the laughing now with Notre Dame ranked No. 3 in the country.

“Last year I caught so much heat after I committed,” Oghoufo said. “And with the season that they had, I caught a lot of heat. Now I can kind of rub it in.”

Playing at Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Bauer heard his share of chatter too.

“I got a lot of negativity,” Bauer said, “and I got a lot of people because I'm from PA pushing 'Hey, Penn State's doing pretty good.' But I never had a second thought about changing my decision.”

Bauer didn’t see last season as a defining moment for Notre Dame’s football program.

“I chose to go there for an education and the best place in the world to play football,” Bauer said. “I really wasn't that worried that they had one down season.”

Both Oghoufo and Bauer were optimistic that Notre Dame would return to success this season. But an 8-1 record has surpassed expectations.

“I knew they were definitely going to have a better season. But I didn't expect a season like this where we're talking about a national championship and the College Football Playoff,” Oghoufo said. “I actually thought it was going to be an improvement season, but this one is an all-out, we're-going-for-it-all type of season.”

As linebackers, Oghoufo and Bauer were debriefed on the changes coming for Notre Dame’s defense under new coordinator Mike Elko. Everything sounded good, but it’s much easier to understand after seeing the product on the field.

The Irish are tied for 15th in the country with 19 turnovers forced and the 18.6 points per game allowed is good for 17th nationally.

“The defense in total is just dominating teams,” Bauer said. “I was at the USC game. They shutout USC in the first half. That was definitely the most impressive thing that I've paid attention to so far this year.

"It's kind of crazy, because I don't think I realized how dominating it would end up being. I wasn't doubting them, but I also was just kind of excited to see how they would do. It's their first year, we'll see how it goes, and they kind of blew it up. It was awesome."

In addition to the defense, Oghoufo has been impressed by the gains made in the strength and conditioning program. Oghoufo made sure to meet with director of football performance Matt Balis while on campus and said he can see the difference.

“I noticed last year that it seemed like they couldn't really run. They weren't running to the ball,” Oghoufo said. “They were huge, but there was nothing to show for it. This year I can see it through all the videos and all the hard work that Daelin (Hayes) and Khalid (Kareem) tell me about.

“No wonder why they're winning, because they're conditioned.”

Both Oghoufo and Bauer are in the midst of playoff runs in the final games of their high school football careers. Both plan to sign early in December and are working to enroll early at Notre Dame in January.

Soon they’ll get their chance to take part in the Notre Dame resurgence. They’ve waited long enough.

“You want to see them win, but you always want to see them super hungry for next year," Bauer said. "I know they will be. I hope they win this year and keep going on into the playoffs and all that. Then I'm really excited to be a part of it next year."

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Bo Bauer runs drills during Irish Invasion Saturday, June 10, 2017, inside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame linebacker commit Ovie Oghoufo, a 2018 recruit, walks into Notre Dame Stadium before the Georgia-Notre Dame game. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA